Spanning Time

There’s a fun discussion of Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 over at the AV Club — including a clip of the great photo-booth scene. I was struck by the fact that Scott Tobias seemed very concerned that his readers’ lack of empathy for Gallo’s character would prevent them from being able to appreciate the movie. I don’t recall that being an issue at all. That said, Ricci’s immediate affection for him does seem a little unmotivated, to say the least.

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4 Responses to Spanning Time

  1. Nates says:

    By the way, this series they’ve been doing at the Onion — the New Cult Canon — has been really interesting. It’s a nice way to fill up your Netflix queue.

  2. Josh says:

    Having not read the article, I’ll just reflect on your comment’s major premise – I’ve never understood why critics so often conflate the question of the sympathy we might feel for a protagonist (or even all the characters) and the enjoyment we might take in the film (or book, or whatever) as a whole.

    In fact, some of my more rewarding experiences as a reader and as a movie-viewer were in works that delved deeply into their characters’ total (or almost total) failure to be sympathetic. Buffalo 66 is definitely a good example. So are all three of Jonathan Franzen’s novels before the one that just came out (it might also be so, bit I haven’t read it yet). Just about the entire family in The Corrections is seriously unlikeable. However, their un-likeability is portrayed so compellingly that you start to understand it and internalize it, somehow, without actually coming around to sympathy exactly.

    And as to Ricci’s character – to me, it seemed very intuitive why she was willing to go along with Gallo’s, even if her motivations are not exactly rationally explicable. I remember while watching that for sure, her character had some deep problems that the film did not make clear – she goes along with the quasi-kidnapping for reasons that seem good enough for her, even if not for us. In a world of reality-show un-subtlety, it’s possible to forget that at times, people act from motives they do not gush about while locking eyes with the camera.

  3. Nates says:

    It occurs to me that Ricci’s character is a lot like Sonya (or Sophia) in Crime and Punishment: a saint-like figure who takes enormous amounts of abuse from the protagonist, but perseveres with a kind of redemptive love for him. In both cases, the feelings aren’t fully explained, but, as you suggest, the inexplicability can itself be a kind of realism.

  4. Josh says:

    Yeah – for sure. I haven’t read Crime and Punishment for some time, but other D novels are replete with characters of similar description.

    Also – while we’re on the subject of inexplicability as a kind of realism – that’s really where I think Mad Men most excels. There are these very understandable opacities for all of the principal characters. I find Peggy Olson perhaps the most inscrutable. One actually gets the sense that there is an inner life that we don’t understand but still seems plausible, even necessary. Same goes for Roger Sterling – his recent racist tirade against some Japanese businessmen for some reason brought out some sympathy from me, though I was totally at a loss to understand its true sources.

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